Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quick Thought - Another lemming.

Out of any console allegiance, Sony fans get the most offended when you declare their brand anything less than perfect. Fact.

I was speaking to someone the other day.

He talks about Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm and tells me it simply isn’t possible on any other system because it’s only on the PS3. I correct him and casually let him know, it’s certainly very possible on a 360, given the right coding, and that it being exclusive is a combination of platform preference (Cyberconnect 2 has traditionally made Naruto games for the PS2) and business (money comes first.). He freaks out on me, ignores both points. and starts name dropping exclusive titles like Uncharted, Killzone, all the while telling me that not one of them is possible on the 360, and that the system has peaked in terms of graphical fidelity.

He declares Uncharted’s graphics as the most AMAZING THING EVER and goes on to tell me the game isn’t possible on any other console because of the power of the Cell. He tells me Gears of War 2 doesn’t look all that great.

It’s a pointless argument, a baseless argument, and whenever I hear people start to name drop the Cell Processor and Blu-Ray disc as reasons for Playstation 3 superiority, my brain shuts off. You people aren’t programmers, or coders. You know nothing. Yes, I said it.

I told him it’s possible with the right kind of coding. Uncharted is a gorgeous game and has a lot going on under the hood of the PS3, but if Naughty Dog were as dedicated to the 360’s architecture as they were to the PS3’s, it would definitely become a reality. This is the case of any developer. Mastering one console instead of spreading yourself thin across several will always yield the best results, no matter what platform you’re working on. I was yelled at for my opinion.

Drinking the Kool-aid of your favorite console manufacturer still seems to be the order of the day. Then again, Sony fans are a bit butthurt. They flail wildly whenever you speak an ill word about the Playstation, or declare it to be anything less than immaculate.

I’ll keep allowing them to lick their wounds irrationally. I know I would be if I spent $600+ dollars on my PS3 at launch and spent 3 years being promised brand dominance that still has yet to be realized. I’m sure it’s terrible watching a modified Gamecube take the lead and be forced to trail behind the breadcrumbs of filthy, monopolistic Americans.

I wouldn't know that anguish. I'm a gamer, not a sheep, and I go wherever the games are.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Pizza Time!

TMNT IV: Turtles in Time is one of my personal favorites. Based on the 4 player arcade classic, the SNES version has the reputation of being one of the best beat'em ups of all time.

Of course, with all this popularity, a remake was inevitable, and so goes the transformation from this:


To this:


Now I look at this, and while I'm somewhat excited, I also find myself a bit torn. I'm very much under the impression that no matter how impressive 3D gets, it'll never be able to capture the personality of 2d, and while this seems to capture the brawling, Foot Soldier flinging, "Cowabunga!" filled awesome of the original (arcade!) version, something seems a bit flat. May just be me though. Perhaps it's the absence of that rumbling, screen shaking effect that made every slam so tangible and meaty in the home version?

I'll likely be all over this come June 22nd, so I'll reserve any further thoughts until then. Comparison vid below..

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oh, you wonderful game you...

LittleBigPlanet continues to be...simply amazing. But this is cute. Nice to see Media Molecule continue to pour so much effort into the game long after its release. I can't wait until they release this update.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Quick Thought - Fighters

It seems like 2009 is the year the of the fighting game. Really, for a genre that I thought was on the steady decline, it seems that all of the biggest names of the genre are making some sort of comeback. Just for kicks, here's how it's going down in '09:

-First Capcom stuns us all with Street Fighter 4. It's also no secret that ultra rare (and incredibly broken) fighter Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is going to be downloadable around the end of July. Then mid summer, they drop a ball on us confirming the impossible--Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is coming to the states (only on the Wii), possibly by the end of this year.

-Namco finally decides to make Tekken 6 a definite fall release (on three platforms!) with the added bonus of also releasing Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny(or Soulcalibur IV: Kratos edition) for the PSP.

-Not about to be outdone, SNK decides to revitalize and reinvent King of Fighters with the upcoming KOF XII, bring us back in time with an XBLA version of Garou: Mark of the Wolves, and take us even FURTHER back with KOF 98': Ultimate Match.

-Sensing something amiss (and looking to steal a bit of thunder from SNK, methinks), Arc System Works realizes after the English release of Guilty Gear X2 Accent Core Plus it can't afford to keep milking Guilty Gear X2 like Street Fighter 2,(aside from sega locking them out of creative control of the GG franchise) and decides to take THEIR universe forward with Blazblue: Calamity Trigger.

So yeah. It's a good time to invest in an arcade stick, if you dig this kind of thing.

Or at least a fight pad. I know I have.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call?


Whenever a licensed property and gaming collide, there are always eyebrows raised. I don't know what it is, the gaming industry and the movie industry borrow so much from each other, but whenever the two collide, it's a mess. Movies rarely translate into good games, and good games rarely translate well into movies. It's just the way things are. So you can imagine my (and everyone else's) skepticism when a Ghostbusters game was announced. How could it possibly be any good, even with the original writers (Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis) in charge of the story? I expected a potentially funny, but ultimately forgettable gaming experience at best.

Was I wrong?

As a matter of fact, yes.

Because the actual movie is currently stuck in development hell, this is the closest to a Ghostbusters III we’re going to get. With that in mind, I’m pleased to say that for the most part, game succeeds admirably in filling this void. All of the original actors return for their roles (with the exception of two, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis) and their performances are nearly flawless. The game takes place in 1991, two years after Ghostbusters II, and they’ve hired a new recruit to test out their newer, more dangerous equipement. A training mishap or two later, and one of the ghosts, the ubiquitous Slimer, escapes and makes his way back to his original haunting grounds. In the midst of hunting and capturing him, they discover the Stay Puft Marshmallow man wreaking havoc in Times Square, apparently chasing a mysterious woman. But what’s her significance? Also, WHY is the marshmallow man back?


If you found any of those elements hard to follow, you aren’t a Ghostbusters fan, and honestly, that’s who this game was made for. From the minute you boot the game up, you’re treated to the 1980’s version of the Columbia Pictures logo and the nostalgia takes off running with no sign of slowing down. Inside jokes, fanservice, and references to both movies are packed to the brim here, and even the plot itself relies heavily on you having seen the first movie, since nearly every character from the original shows up in some way. It’s well written, practically a love letter to fans, and even though it’s been 20 years since the last adventure, it does a great job of pulling you in like no time has passed at all. I also love the idea of playing as a nameless rookie. By placing you in your own shoes instead of emulating a member of the cast, it's almost like fufilling a childhood fantasy of tagging along during one of their adventures.

Gameplay wise, it feels like a third person shooter with exploration elements--think Gears of War without any cover system in mind, but with a unique twist in the form of ghost trapping. This was the one part of the game that stood to make or break the experience, and I'm pleased to say it's pulled off well. In order to capture a ghost, you need to weaken it with your primary weapon, a proton stream, then when its life is depleted, you wrangle it with a capture beam and wrestle it into a trap. It sounds odd on paper, but in practice, it’s quite fun:

In fact, the ghost wrangling part of the gameplay is easily the best part of the experience, it's so well thought out that you'll eventually slide into a rhythm of weaken, snare, slam, trap, and while the secondary weapons, ranging from a "Dark Matter" upgrade that gives you the ability to slow enemies down, to the "Meson Collider", an electrical based rapid fire weapon all have their own feel and use, nothing beats your default weapon. It's so addictive in itself that it's almost disappointing when the game switches gears near the final act and puts an emphasis on shooting, but it isn't a dealbreaker by any means. Of course, a gaming concession had to be made in the form of having to vent out your pack manually so it doesn't overheat and short out, but even with that dose of realism to keep you on your toes, it doesn't take away from that feeling of being a Ghostbuster.

Speaking of feeling like a Ghostbuster, for all of the hits with the writing and references, it wouldn't have come together quite as well if the visuals hadn't been so on point. It isn't a overstatement when I say it's one of the best looking games I've played this year, textures, lighting, everything looks much better than anyone ever though it would, from your character's incredibly detailed proton pack (that shows off everything from your health, to morphing depending on your weapon mode) to some down right spot-on character likenesses.


The physics are also out of this world as well, the "Infernal Engine" powering Ghostbusters is already impressive in itself with the aforementioned graphical staples, but it’s the physics behind it that makes the package stand out overall. Just about everything in the environments can be broken, smashed, and thrown all over the place, something that happens almost constantly because of the collateral damage caused by your proton gun during even the smallest trapping session. By the time the dust clears, tables will be smashed , windows broken, even flaming embers embedded in the walls from your gun's stream are all present, especially if it's a particularly tough catch. It isn’t limited to your interaction as well, some ghosts will possess objects in the levels to manipulate them, and occasionally, entire areas will simply break apart at will in order to spook you. By the time I reached the New York Public Library chapter, with the moving bookshelves and realizing every single book had been taken into account, I was floored.


Audio wise, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The music is excellent and pulled straight from the first movie, but that's also it's shortcoming, as there are literally only 5 or 6 tracks to choose from. The fact that they're already familiar doesn't help matters either when you've heard the same fight theme several times over be the close of a chapter. Also, while every character is voiced INCREDIBLY well(with the exception of Alyssa Milano, who sounded wooden as all hell), I had an issue with Peter Venkman's character. Whether it was Bill Murray's delivery, or the fact that his lines just weren't that good this time around, I found myself actually disliking him as the game went on, which is strange, considering he was the life, the personality of the entire team in the movies.

Don't let that ward you off though, Ghostbusters : The Video Game not only succeeds in being a great licensed game, but also in being a great game on its own merits. The level of quality and love put into it is almost surreal, and even though it's a bit on the short side (I clocked in at around 8 hours my first time through) and a pinch repetitive, it's well worth a second playthrough, as there are a bunch of collectibles and well thought out Achievements/Trophies to collect. I didn't even mention the multiplayer, which is actually campaign in itself, allowing you to take the role of the original four and indulge in several varied co-op campaigns with three other players.

If you're a fan, this is a no-brainer. If you aren't, I would strongly suggest watching the first movie, but even being a bit lost to the mythology doesn't keep this game from being something worth playing. I can't recommend it enough.

[Multiplatform Note: Between the two next-gen versions, the Xbox 360 one wins by a landslide.The PS3 version just can't cut it graphically.]

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

I haven't the slightest clue WHAT a "Calamity Trigger" is..

But if it allows me to do things like this:


Then it's alright in my book.

I'll be very honest, I didn't think much of the title a little over a month ago, if you couldn't tell from the earlier KOF post, I was NECK deep in hype over the care and attention to detail SNK was placing in their latest game, The King of Fighters XII. I didn't have time to care about anything else, especially since I'd played Guilty Gear almost exclusively for a year and a half, I knew what I might be getting myself into, so I shrugged.

Then I was dragged into an arcade, and I finally got to see this game in action.

All I could say

My eyes were treated to high definition sprites superimposed over detailed, colorful 3D backgrounds, with all manner of seizure inducing effects bouncing all over the screen. It's an understatement to say I was in shock when the first thing I saw was something like this:

By the time we left, I swore I had to have it. By the time it arrived in my store, the plastic was already off and it was spinning in the demo 360.

This post is actually late because I spent all of last night tooling around with ONE character.

Yeah, think it's safe to say that Blazblue:Calamity Trigger has a hold on me.

For anyone wondering exactly WHAT a "Calamity Trigger" is (outside of context) I couldn't tell you the story if I tried, something about a beast, a great war, something else about a powerful sort of weapon called "Armagus" and how only a few people can use it, a caste system was formed, someone stole something and--ARGH.

It's absolute nonsense (That I'll probably enjoy as I get deeper into it--I can explain Guilty Gear's story at the drop of a hat), but it's a setup that basically gives you a reason to do things like the video above.


However, aside from being gorgeous, it's also a surprisingly technical fighter as well. Not being TOO removed from the formula that made Guilty Gear such a success, there are only 4 buttons, and like GG, there are basic "bread n' butter" combos that let you easily chain moves together and be flashy with a decent amount of effort. For the frame counting, priority driven tourney player, there is a surprising amount of depth contained as well, with drives (unique specials), rapid cancels, burst modes for a tactical advantage (attack increase=/=defense increase by 30%) the barrier'd take its own post just to explain every gauge on the screen in depth, but the great thing, like in SF4 with its "Focus" system, is that you don't need to learn it all in order to have fun.

I've also heard complaints about the lack of characters (ther are only 12), but I ask: Would you rather have a game with 30+ characters where the balance is all over the place (and only 12 of them are worth using) or would you rather have a game with a small, balanced cast, and EVERY character controls and feels different from the next?

Its a no brainer, I think. However I'm done raving, enjoy a small basic combo video that shows off just how flexible the fighting system can get, and how flashy the moves are.

(KOF who?...ah..I'm so fickle..)

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